The Massachusetts’ State Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has proposed a policy by which they would retain drivers’ speed data for 30 days after it is collected on the Massachusetts Turnpike through its new all-electronic toll stations.
MassDOT explains that the speed data must be collected in order to synchronize the new tolling system’s cameras so that the systems can accurately take photographs of vehicles’ license plates as they drive through the new tolls. This collection and use seems necessary to ensure proper operation of the new tolls. However, MassDOT has also stated that it intends to store the speed data for research purposes for 30 days. MassDOT assures drivers that it will not store speed data with any identifying information, and that it does not intend to use the data to enforce speed limit laws and punish speeding drivers. However, privacy advocates have raised some concerns.
Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty Project at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts said that MassDOT needs to explain to drivers “why it is collecting personally identifiable speed data in the first place, and how it arrived at a 30-day retention period for those records. It’s not clear what business purpose the collection and retention of these data serves.” Additionally, privacy advocates are worried about MassDOT turning over data for use in criminal or civil court cases, or having it stolen by hackers.
Beyond the 30-day retention for speed data, MassDOT is also proposing to retain electronic records on toll transactions for 7 years, which will include data on the location, date, time, license plate, and transponder number for each transaction, but it would exclude speed data. MassDOT is also proposing to keep videos of vehicles passing under tolls for 180 days.
Spokeswoman for MassDOT, Jacquelyn Goddard, said MassDOT officials want to first present information about privacy and data retention to the MassDOT board before answering drivers’ questions.
The new tolling systems are set to be in effect on October 28. Drivers will no longer have to stop, or even slow down, to pay tolls, but instead vehicles with E-ZPass will be charged automatically and vehicles without transponders will have their license plates photographed and a bill will be mailed to car owners.